Lost amid the West’s manipulative reporting of the New Cold War has been coverage of Russia’s recent announcement of ambitious space plans, which signal a clear and focused strategy in once more becoming the world’s preeminent power in this field. A certain component of Russia’s strategy is motivated by the need to counter the US’ militarization of space, and considering this, it’s expected that it’ll receive heated and misleading criticism in the coming future. Be that as it may, Russia’s other interest is purely altruistic, as Moscow seeks to continue its record-setting legacy in space and further the betterment of all of humanity.
From The Earth…
Russia’s new space strategy began with plans to construct the Vostochny Cosmodrome, which first broke ground back in 2011. This ambitious project is intended to result in a state-of-the-art space facility based along the Chinese border in Amur Oblast. Such a location serves a strategic purpose, as it likely foreshadows that Russia’s closest ally, China, could find some joint use for it as well. Additionally, the placement of a major strategic infrastructure asset like Vostochny so closer to the Chinese border illustrates the high level of comfort and security that Russia feels towards China, providing further evidence of the intimate ties that underpin the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership, as well as Moscow’s long-term forecast that such relations will only continue far into the future.
Apart from constructing Vostochny, Russia also wants to create the world’s first rocket engine manufacturing holding, which will consolidate the country’s existing manufacturing resources in this field and streamline their collaboration. This move should be seen as part of a larger strategy outside of Russia’s own domestic interests, as if the plan is successful, then Moscow could potentially sell these units to other established or emerging space powers. It already partakes in this business as it is (most notably with the US), but coupled with a more efficient manufacturing process and increased interest by many states in space exploration and/or satellite launches, then Russia could solidly become the global go-to power for this technology, much as it has already become as regards the nuclear energy field.
To The Heavens
One of the most significant space-based decisions Russia has made is to create its own space station by 2023, which was announced during President Putin’s latest Q&A session. Such an entity would be the Russian Federation’s version of the Soviet-era Mir, the world’s first space station, which was entirely under Moscow’s sovereignty. The significance of this decision mustn’t be separated from the current political and strategic context. The New Cold War figures prominently into the equation, but it’s likely that some form of preparatory work was launched in Russia even prior to the ‘official’ outbreak of East-West tensions during EuroMaidan. Still, even prior to this, Washington had been engaged in the militarization of space through its secretive X37 program. This project was originally initiated under NASA in 1999 before being transferred to DARPA in 2004, after which it became classified and disappeared from nearly all reporting until its debut test flight in 2010 (which was still shrouded in secrecy).
The US has been adamant that it was China, not America, that began the militarization of space with Beijing’s anti-satellite weapon test in 2007, but one would do well to remember that it was the US itself which practiced the first successful satellite shoot-down in 1984 with the ASM-135 ASAT. Seen through the prism of space wars and the possible use of anti-satellite weapons by the US and their proliferation to its NATO and associated allies, it makes absolute sense for Russia to have its own manned space station in orbit to observe developments and respond accordingly.
In fact, Russia obviously isn’t the only multipolar power threatened by the US’ antagonism in space, and it’s accordingly preparing to propose that its BRICS partners cooperatively launch their own orbiting station as well. This move isn’t intended to have a military purpose (although it very well could grow into some type of counter-weight to the West), but instead to show that multilateral and peaceful cooperation in space is certainly possible, and that human progress in the cosmos doesn’t have to be impeded by political disagreements on earth. While there are certainly various limits to this proposal (not least among them the space rivalry between India and China, ironically enough), it serves as a provocative idea could even possibly develop into a joint Russian-Chinese space facility instead, especially if India opts out and Brazil and South Africa face budgetary hurdles. No matter which direction it takes, the very fact that Russia is raising the issue of multipolar cooperation in space should be a telling sign that this geopolitical development of the past few decades may prospectively transcend the earth itself.
Russia’s furthest reaching ambitions lie past the planet and its gravitation field and towards the nearby celestial bodies of the Moon and Mars. Russia plans to commence a manned orbiting mission around the Moon in 2025, followed shortly thereafter by an actual human landing in 2029. Furthermore, understanding how integral mulltipolarity and the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership are for Moscow’s foreign policy, these two core concepts are now being carried over into its interstellar one as well, since it was just announced by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin that the two Eurasian powers are contemplating cooperation on a joint Moon base.
China isn’t Russia’s only space partner, however, since it was just revealed that Roscosmos and NASA are working together on a “road map” program for flights to the Moon and Mars. This friendly gesture demonstrates that Russia isn’t opposed to cooperating with anyone in the interests of all mankind, even despite the current New Cold War tensions, and should also be seen as an admission by the US of the necessity for pragmatic ties with Russia. The latter is especially specific in this case, however, since the US thus far hasn’t solidly demonstrated this on earth. It may be that America’s intentions in cooperating with Russia in the Moon and Mars are tied to its implicit self-understanding that it isn’t capable of conducting these missions unilaterally, or that they have yet to acquire a concrete military significance that would eventually preclude such cooperation and compel whatever means are necessary to make them unilateral. Only time can tell what the US has in mind by working with Russia in space, but thus far it’s clear that Russia’s intent in the matter is to set a positive example for mankind’s future space prospects, and that practicality trumps politics when it comes to this imperative.